Chicago Style Pizza: Deep Dish and Delicious
I hesitated when beginning to write this because I didn’t want to get dragged into the debate. How did Chicago style deep dish pizza really come into being? When did somebody decide to make that perfect buttery cornmeal crust? And top it with a mountain of fresh mozzarella cheese and a chunky tomato sauce? And why not try it with Italian sausage, already a Chicago favorite. Though the debate continues, there is one thing that we can all agree on: it’s damn good pizza.
Legend has it it all started at a little place called Pizzeria Uno. The famed origins are still located at 29 E. Ohio street, and these days pulling in between $3-$4 million a year–and they don’t even deliver! The humble pizza joint located in an old mansion built by a lumber baron was home to some pizza geniuses who together created and promoted the pizza that we Chicagoans swear by today.
Definition of Deep Dish: A pizza made with a buttery, cornmeal crust that rises an inch or more above the plate and surrounds a mountain of cheese, toppings, and sauce. The pizza is baked in a pan and usually takes about 45 minutes. The sauce is chunkier than most pizza sauce and is put on the top of the ingredients and cheese. This delicious goodness can get pretty messy, so it is usually eaten with a knife and fork. Deep dish can also be referred to as stuffed pizza, but there is a difference. Stuffed pizza has another layer of dough on top of the ingredients, but under the sauce.
So picture yourself in 1940s Chicago, a little more gangster, a little less yuppie, enjoying deep dish for the first time at a new bar. Restaurant partners Richard Novaretti, known as Ric Riccardo, and his friend, Ike Sewell, originally named their new restaurant The Pizzeria, later Pizzeria Riccardo, and finally Pizzeria Uno in 1955. Due to Pizzeria Uno’s growing success, they quickly opened Pizzeria Due at Wabash and Ontario, just up the street from the original. Sewell was looking to create a pizza that could be a meal, unlike the one current Chicagoans were eating as an appetizer or a snack. The owners offered free slices to showcase their new recipe featuring a new, more substantial pizza. To this day, Pizzeria Uno credits Sewell, and we believe them. A pizza genius.
But throw one more famous pizzaen (yes, I made that word up) into the mix. Rudy Malnati Sr. (that last name ring a bell?) was manager of Pizzeria Riccardo in 1951, though some advertisements and newspaper clippings from the time even call him part-owner and main operator. While there is no documentation that Malnati contributed to the creation, and he never took credit for the recipe in interviews, he certainly was there at the original Ohio street restaurant. It undoubtedly influenced his nephew Luciano “Lou” Malnati into breaking from Pizzeria Uno to start his own chain, the equally famous Lou Malnati’s. Today his sons Marc and Rick manage the chain of Lou Malnati restaurants.
While Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due in their original locations still serve up nothing but deep dish (with an often long, tourist filled wait), Pizzeria Uno has become a chain and transformed into a casual dining restaurant with a very different menu everywhere else. Today the restaurant chain “Uno’s Chicago Grill” has more than 200 restaurants in the United States and Puerto Rico, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. If it were me, I would only settle for the two originals, still present downtown for your pizza eating pleasure. So, go forth Chicagoans, and let a big string of mozzarella hang from your mouth as you bite into some tasty deep-dish. Mmmm.
Other places to grab a good original deep-dish include Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, Pizano’s, and Edwardos. Jackie finds it important to note that her “all-time favorite” is Giordano’s.